Ministry up north
The North of England Conference 2012, which was held in March in Mirfield, was a ‘unique’ conference. It has normally been open for leaders and potential leaders in the churches, until this year when women were openly encouraged to come.
This is a wonderful recognition of the role these women play in ministering among women, in visitation and among younger people.
One of the marks of the relationships between those who attend is there are no pretensions. It is just a great group of brothers — and, now, sisters — getting together to talk and renew friendships formed by a common approach to the gospel and Christian living.
One pastor who travels from Wales said last time that it is amazing to take up our friendships exactly where we left them the previous year, just as family members so often do.
This year, John Benton’s ministry made us face up to what ought to be at the heart of our lives and work in the churches, that is, passion for the Lord himself.
In the story of the sun and the wind competing to get a man’s coat off his back, some preachers are more like the wind than the sun. Mr Benton, however, while urging us to be passionate in our relationship with the Lord, did so by warming our hearts to Christ, urging us to seek the Holy Spirit’s immediate work in our hearts and churches, as we serve the Saviour.
He urged us to get organised in such a way that spiritual growth and development becomes a reality in the lives of members.
John Harris’s comments on Christmas Evans and the Lord’s powerful work for a period in his ministry was a fascinating exploration of God’s strange and inexplicable providences.
I remember one pastor who laboured for years in a most barren situation, then went to another for a few weeks and saw scores of people trusting the Lord in those few short weeks.
When he returned home, the events were not repeated. What do we make of such sovereign acts? We have to leave the question unanswered.
There was a helpful open discussion that explored the prayer lives of the churches we represented. I came away from it encouraged. Many churches are valiantly seeking the Lord and many have numerous prayer meetings every week.
The discussion gave me hope. The day must surely come when the Lord will pour out blessings on the North of England and we shall see many come to Christ, into the churches and on into discipleship and service for the Lord.
I don’t know how far ‘north’ the North of England goes, or how far ‘south’ it extends, but churches further afield than the M62 corridor would find it helpful to give this conference a try if they have never been before. They will not be disappointed.
All of the messages are available at http://northern-conference.info/audio_download.htm